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The leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping and the summer is officially ending. While many will pack up flag t-shirts, put away leftover fireworks and clean that deliciously-used BBQ, we’re asking that you carry one thing with you as you say goodbye to summer and everything associated with it. The idea of freedom.
While many don’t think of the Declaration of Independence after, or even during, the 4th of July, it is worth thoughtful consideration.
Especially now. The most famous component of the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble, embodies what America has stood for since its hard-fought establishment, and deserves more than a passing thought once a year. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We may take these words and what they’ve established for granted, but there is a war going on. A war of class, culture, and lifestyle. On one side of this battle is a group aiming to control others, typically hiding under the veil of “individual liberty” but with the very-real goal of suppressing individuality. They seek to repress individual rights by having us tow the party line they feel they have the right to define.
On the other side is a group of individuals who haven’t forgotten about the Declaration of Independence or the Preamble. They’re people who believe in individuality and individual choice. People who believe in the intellect and ability of others to make their own choices, while in constant consideration of others and how their choices impact the greater good.
So, we have to ask: Which side are you on?
Being alive and enjoying the life you’re living are two very different things. While some people consider the two thoughtlessly intertwined, many people have been dealt a bad hand when it comes to health and, as a result, are suffering. Does one person have the right to make decisions about another person’s health? Should a proven, scientifically justifiable form of pain relief be denied to those who need it most, because it doesn’t align with other people’s beliefs? Should a drug war, arguably steeped in socioeconomic and racial disparity, keep those suffering from enjoying their life? By refusing to legalize medical marijuana use immediately, and subsequently removing cannabis from the list of schedule 1 narcotics, one side of this debilitating war is choosing bad law and worse science over what has been proven over the course of humanity: Cannabis is on the earth to be used responsibly as a natural healing property. A healing property that gives many people the unalienable right to live life, free from discomfort.
The aggressive pursuit of non-violent possession crimes has been a waste of money and manpower, a destroyer of families and a pillager of lives. Statistics show the consumption rates of cannabis amongst whites and non-whites are basically the same, yet the arrest rates of non-whites is significantly higher: 3.7x that of whites. People of color have suffered at a disproportionate and staggering rate. The results have been an eroding of civil liberties of fellow Americans, who haven’t harmed anyone else with their “crimes”. The result is the disillusion of the unalienable right to liberty.
The truest definition of freedom is, arguably, the ability to enjoy self-expression. We all have unique ways in which we enjoy expressing ourselves. Whether it’s through personal style, participation in particular social groups, or preferences in recreation – so long as we’re not infringing on others, and are of age to make legal and informed decisions – we are generally allowed freedom in our personal pursuits.
Unless, of course, that pursuit involves cannabis. There are zero annual deaths associated with the consumption of marijuana. That doesn’t mean we should be encouraging use while operating heavy machinery, driving, or performing brain surgery, but use as a recreational aid isn’t likely to result in death or injury. And while it is a safe way to relax after a stressful day or lose yourself in wondering thoughts, recreational use of cannabis is still overwhelming illegal in the United States as of 2015. The same cannot be said, however, for alcoholic beverages. While alcohol sales are estimated at $170.5 billion annually, they also account for roughly 500,000 deaths a year in the United States alone. While death and alcohol seem to go hand-in-hand, alcohol is still a legal substance that is readily available to those of age who decide to use it.
Something has to change. We shouldn’t allow our unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness be stifled. It’s easy to think changing laws is too hard, too time consuming or way too expensive. However, think back to the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble. Think back to the inaugural Independence Day, and the difficulties our founding fathers had in establishing a free country in which the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness would be a defining cornerstone. We can make a difference. We can make a change.
Educate yourself on these important issues and become an active participant in your community by voting. Lend your voice to the future and exercise your individual right to be heard. Organizations like NORML, Marijuana Policy Project, Americans for Safe Access, and others are working hard to insure the Declaration of Independence is a tool for positive change.